I'm reaching recession overload. Everywhere I turn there are more stories about the causes, impact, and how to adapt. I'm getting utterly sick of the human interest features about how everyone is coping or not coping with the changes. Yet, a lot of my thoughts are along the same lines so I haven't been posting a lot.
I've discovered while home for Easter weekend that my parents are canceling Netflix and shopping at Aldi's. The boy keeps getting sent home early because there just isn't enough work to keep everyone busy. I've quit checking my Vanguard account. It's not a super fun time, but life goes on.
It's the more subtle effects that are keeping me up at night. The physics graduate program at my old university had an upsurge in applications this year as more people tried to wait out the recession and the competition for slots at top-tier programs became all the more fierce. One of the best physics students I know got rejected by his top choice despite being offered large scholarships to other programs. His university of choice dealt with budget cuts by reducing the number of graduate stipends they offer.
His second choice, Cornell University (with an R.P. Feynman award), is hardly a bad option for an aspiring physicist, but not such a great option for someone who also hopes to spend the rest of his life with my friend S. She got a major fellowship to attend graduate school in English at the school that rejected him, and they wound up with zero overlap in their acceptances. It was, to put it mildly, bloody depressing. Fortunately, yesterday at the eleventh hour the National Science Foundation offered him a graduate fellowship, and the top choice offered him a slot since he'll be bringing federal funding with him.
So all that worked out nicely, but it leaves me a bit concerned about my prospects next year. I'll never be the physicist my friend will be. I fancy that I'm reasonably bright and hardworking, but I wasn't the sort of student who could work through enough E&M on my own to take graduate-level general relativity as a sophomore. Throw in that I've done hardly any real physics this year, instead opting to stand back and watch my brains slowly turn to mush as I spend my days trying to teach teenagers how to add fractions so they have a prayer of learning the material I'm actually supposed to be teaching, and I don't feel so secure in my chances of getting in to a respected graduate program.
Yeah, it's nothing compared to the folks who're losing their savings, their jobs, their health insurance, and their homes. Yeah, it's mostly my own darn fault for going into TFA instead of directly into grad school back when the economic outlook was a touch rosier. Yeah, it really is entirely my fault that I didn't keep up with studying every day instead of letting myself get washed away by a sea of grief and then struggling to keep up with the demands of teaching. Like so many others, I'm nervous about the fallout from a variety of factors, some that were totally within my locus of control and others that are far outside it.